July 16, 2015
by Yifan Zhang
For many young students, a first meeting with Shakespeare looks something like this. A vaguely medieval font announces the Bard’s work and a pastel cover suggests equally pastel narrative intrigue.
Now what if Shakespeare could look like this?
Funky graphics and pop culture icons like beatboxer, Shlomo, flit through the screen. A hip British accent and beat-laden music walk you through a “reimagining” of Shakespeare.
The above is part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s and Samsung’s new project, an app called Re:Shakespeare. Available free on Google Play, the app aims to bring the Bard onto our devices and into the imaginations of a new generation. As Fast Company reports, the app will focus for now on the play Much Ado About Nothing, “but [it] also includes links and quotes from 19 other Shakespeare plays.”
The celebrity coaches break up some of the Bard’s more impenetrable scenes and turn them into fun, interactive, lyrical challenges. Users can also mix beatboxing by Shlomo with Shakespeare to create their own music videos.
Shakespeare’s work has always been subject to interpretation. There have been countless remakes staged in countless different ways and apps to help readers read Shakespeare, but never before an interpretation so directly aimed at making the modern culture understand the his work. Turning Shakespearean lines, which can seem impenetrable, into a game of “lyrical challenges” is an act of genius, channeling the focus of a generation in love with Angry Bird onto the challenge of interpreting Shakespeare’s words as well.
Although critics may find the app glib, another ploy to make our twenty-first century minds enjoy sixteenth century words, this one is earnest. It is really an app focused on translation, on translating the social mores and turns of phrase long lost in time into a moment of comprehension when the brilliance of Shakespeare’s themes finally come into play. So student or otherwise, go try the app. If you don’t like it, then you don’t. But if you do, and liking the app makes you pick up a Shakespearean work just because you want to, well then you’ve been “Re:Shakespear[ed].”